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September 17, 2013

Unexceptional Leadership

Patricia A. Kelly

It was a sad day when Vladimir Putin felt comfortable calling U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a liar one day before President Barack Obama arrived in Russia for the G-20 Summit. An even sadder day occurred when Putin thought it would be okay to criticize the concept of American exceptionalism in The New York Times.


Now, he, a prime supporter, along with Iran, of Bashar al-Assad's continuing strength in Syria, after two years of civil war and 100,000 deaths, has decided to create a peaceful settlement of the chemical weapons aspect of the war. Perhaps President Obama would like to invite him to stay in the White House and help out personally.


The question of America's proper role in the world is on the line again. Should we step into the Syrian conflict at all? Does the commission of atrocities by a government against its people justify intervention by us? Does intervention by another outside party justify intervention by us?


We keep answering these questions differently. In Egypt, we sided with the rebels after a while and demanded that Hosni Mubarak go. When Mohamed Morsi, not really freely elected as the Egyptian military interfered with the election, was the object of rebellion, we did not side with the rebels. We continued aid throughout. In Syria, we did side with the rebels, in suggesting that President Assad should leave power. We did not assist them, though, even when Russia and Iran were assisting him, and even though we knew the wrongs of his administration.


After two years of waiting and waffling around, we finally, three weeks ago, began sending a few supplies to moderate rebel fighters, a move recommended to our government more than a year ago.


President Obama drew a "red line" in the sand in regard to Syria, which the Assad regime apparently crossed it by using sarin gas against its own citizens. He then denied saying that, calling that "red line" the American people's red line.


Then, in a matter of days, both he and Hilary Clinton, former secretary of state and prospective leading contender in the next presidential race, became convinced that President Assad had egregiously gassed his own people, and should receive a limited attack from us in response.


Oddly, they haven't yet admitted to figuring out what happened within our own State Department regarding the assault on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya a year ago. Results of investigation pending....


What we do seem to know about Benghazi is that the State Department, at the highest (Hilary Clinton) level, refused to send extra security to the Benghazi consulate after warnings of imminent threats by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Libyan government. We do know from White House emails released last April under pressure, that the talking points on the attack were altered for political reasons. We also know that our mainstream media and the Libyan government knew the day after the attack that it was a planned terrorist event.


Now that we have that out of the way, we should trust our government to refrain from intervention in Syria, to fail to assist the rebels, to then assist the rebels, to plan a limited attack on the Syrian government in retaliation for chemical weapons use, but only if Congress and everyone else agrees, and then, in response to threats, criticism and "assistance" from our good friend and that exemplary character Vladimir Putin, Russian president, not attack Syria.


I can't imagine why anyone would feel uncomfortable about this.


The Iraq War was necessary in response to the September 11 attack on the United States. We had to go to war in Afghanistan because of Al Qaeda hiding there with Taliban assistance. Then we learned that we shouldn't have done either of these things.


This brilliant guy, President Obama, came along to care for the downtrodden in America and create a new foreign policy of love and connection in the world. He, bowing to the Arabian king, would show respect for Islamists, and end our two wars.


Although he did make some headway with the wars, and with al Qaeda, the "love and respect" policy hasn't worked. He and his government haven't been able to figure out how to respond to that and what to do instead. When President Putin called Mr. Kerry a liar, our president actually said that decades of distrust involved a habit hard to break.


We, thus, find ourselves led by a scaredy cat, caught in increasing chaos, vacillating in our decision making, and generally looking weaker and more foolish by the minute.


Actually, Mr. Putin is wrong. America is exceptional – in our ideals, our form of government and in our independent, hard-working population.


It's our leadership that's not exceptional.


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